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Understanding Oral Immunotherapy for Food Allergies

 

The standard recommendation to prevent allergic reactions is to remove the food allergen from the diet of the person with the food allergy. But one type of treatment, called food oral immunotherapy (OIT), exposes them to small amounts of the food allergen. But before you consider it, it helps to know what it is, how it works, and the risks and benefits.

OIT is a food allergy treatment that retrains your child’s immune system to respond differently to food. It helps the body gradually desensitize (tolerate) a food allergen. It does this by slowly raising the amount of food allergen your child can eat before it triggers an allergic reaction. The only OIT treatment that is FDA approved thus far is for peanut allergy.

You should never try OIT without the help of an allergist. Your child’s allergist carefully plans and supervises the OIT process. If you try it on your own, you will put your child at risk for anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.


Successful treatment of OIT may give your child something called “bite protection.” This means a lower chance of having an allergic reaction if your child accidentally eats a small amount of the food allergen. Some children may even be able to eat the food freely in their diet after reaching the final stage of OIT treatment program.

OIT is not a cure for food allergies. It may not be the right treatment for everyone. It is a process that takes careful thought, time, and commitment. But for many families, it is a valuable treatment that can reduce stress and may improve quality of life. It may allow your child to eat foods with less stress and worry. Talk with your child’s doctor to see if OIT is right for your child.

Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) has created resources to help you learn about OIT. We cover the following topics:

  • What is OIT?
  • How does OIT work?
  • Common OIT terms
  • Who can get OIT?
  • Is OIT safe and effective?
  • What are the risks of OIT?
  • What are the benefits of OIT?
  • It OIT the right treatment for my child?
  • Can my child receive OIT for multiple foods?
  • Is OIT covered by insurance?

Visit KFA’s OIT webpage to learn more about the treatment. You can also download our free OIT guide.

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Sponsored by Aimmune Therapeutics. This content is developed independently by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and its Kids With Food Allergies division.

Medical Review: October 2021 by Michael Pistiner, MD, MMSc, and John M. James, MD

Are you considering OIT for your child? Or has your child done OIT? Share your questions, thoughts, and experiences on our online support community where you can chat with other families about OIT in an encouraging environment. When you join our community, you’ll also receive updates on food allergy news and research.

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Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) is a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). AAFA is the largest and oldest nonprofit patient organization dedicated to asthma and allergies. KFA educates families and communities with practical food allergy management strategies to save lives and improve the quality of life for children and their families. Our online community includes public blogs. To post a comment, you will need to register or sign in. Registered members have access to additional specialized support forums for food allergies. Registration is free!

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Kids With Food Allergies
A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
1235 South Clark Street Suite 305, Arlington, VA 22202
Phone: 1-800-7-ASTHMA (1.800.727.8462)
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